Happy New Year everyone! 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. Wishing you all light love and laughter. We’ll make it through this together and see the sun again.
While Mac and Manning may not be celebrating the New Year at the moment, they are definitely plotting and planning. Mr. Grace and I are celebrating a lockdown New Year as everyone is in the UK right now, keeping in touch with our friends and family on social media, which is more important for all of us in our isolated lives right now. And, as you might guess, there’s a whole lot of escapist reading going on, which brings us to another episode of Piloting Fury.
As we enter the 23nd week of Fury, I hope you’re enjoying the rollicking read. If so, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, Mac pulls off a little con to get back what was stolen. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!
“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.
Piloting Fury Part 24: The Con
From low orbit, we Mol-tranned into the alley behind the Corsair and left Fury in charge of getting us back safe and sound. When we ‘tranned, Manning pulled me close like he was afraid he’d lose me. As we rematerialized he stepped back and gave me one last head to toe, then gave me a wicked smile. “If I didn’t know what’s about to happen to the poor bastard, I damn near envy Blake spending the evening with you, and so will everyone else.” He touched my neck where the insert was. “The owner of the Corsair owes me a favor, so I got her to drop the shields that prevent Mol-tranning. Fury has a permanent lock on both of us, and you’ll be out of there in a heartbeat if anything looks even slightly suspicious.”
I nodded and turned to leave, but he pulled me back. “I’m serious, Mac. Nothing we’ve lost is worth losing you over, do you understand?”
I nodded again, already in the zone, knowing what I was about to do was something Manning couldn’t manage without me, and I really wanted to do it for the team I now felt a part of, in spite of the shackle in my forearm.
He took me by my shoulders and gave me a gentle shake, as he might have done to wake me up. “Don’t take any unnecessary risks, all right? You belong to me now, me and Fury. Trust us to take care of you, to keep you safe.”
If that wasn’t enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy clear down to my toes, the bastard took my face in his hands and kissed me. He kissed me like no one had ever kissed me. Oh it was just a quick dart in and back out again, but he left me with no doubt where I belonged. Jesus! He left me with no doubt that I actually didbelong, and possibly for more than what I could contribute to Manning’s own Atlas account.
He checked the layer of Dermanew disguising my shackle and ID number one last time. Then he stepped back. “Go. Stella has a table reserved for you in the corner so you won’t draw too much attention. In fact, I paid her well to be sure it’s only Blake’s attention you draw. I’ll be lurking.” He pulled the hood of the New Vaticana monk’s robe he was wearing up over his head and gave my hand one last squeeze. “Good luck.”
Inside a woman with bright yellow hair piled high on top of her head led me to a table near the back without a word spoken. I wondered if she was Stella. I ordered a drink then pulled out the deck of cards and began a game of solitaire keeping one eye on the main entrance. Manning walked in and, at the sight of a monk, one of the Corsair’s good time girls bowed before him and brought his hand to her lips. He laid a palm on her head and offered her the iglacial symbol for the forgiveness of sins. I wondered how he’d learned to be so priestly. Adjusting his hood, he found a place at the bar, and his gaze moved slowly around the room until it settled briefly on me with a barley perceptible nod. Then he gave a casual glance toward the open door, now completely in the shadow of a mountain of a man. The yellow-haired woman greeted him with an affectionate slap on the back then guided him to a table that was so close it was almost in my lap.
While Banshee Blake was only slightly smaller than Fury’s shuttle, he was most definitely not a fat bastard – well perhaps he was a bastard, a good number of the folks who hung out in places like the Corsair were, but he wasn’t fat. He was just huge. Manning was tall, but this man towered over him by a good half-meter. The heavy brow ridge, the blazing eyes and the way he wore his hair in a top knot told me that at least one of his parents was Polyphemian. They were the giants of the known galaxy. Their size, plus the blazing eyes and luxurious hair were always a dead giveaway. No one with Polyphemian blood in the family tree could hide their ancestry. They were supposedly well endowed in all areas of their anatomy and were considered exquisite lovers. None of this information Manning had bothered to impart. I suspected his little possessive speech about me belonging to him and Fury may have been his warning not to let the guy seduce me. As if that would happen when there were credits to be won and a score to be settled. Manning, more than anyone, should know that by now.
The Ployphemian made no effort to hide his blatant ogling of me as I made an elaborate display of dealing the cards and setting them up for another game of solitaire. I pretended not to notice, pretended to be fully focused on my game as he called the waitress over. I could tell by the nod of his head he was ordering me another drink as well. I was dinking Hebridian ginger beer, but he certainly didn’t know that, and I was counting on him thinking I was drunk enough that, not only would he win, but he’d get a good fuck out of the deal as well.
“Thank you.” When the drinks came, I lifted mine in a salute. As I expected, he took that as an invitation to join me. “I was hoping for someone to play with,” I nodded to the cards but made sure he got the double entendre.
“I’d be happy to play with you, darlin’.” Gone was the flugelhorn bellow of our earlier encounter, replaced by what could only be called a bedroom voice, but that was also a Polyphemian trait. The voice they used with the opposite sex was as seductive as the voice they used with the rest of the world was annoying.
“Do you play Stygian five card?” I asked batting my lashes.
“Honey, I play whatever you want me to play.” He laid a hand on my thigh. In my implant, Manning said some rather rude things about the man’s parentage, and Blake just assumed my chuckled response was me flirting with him. I shoved the deck across to him, and said, “what shall we bet?”
By the third hand I had him empathetic, telling him the bits of truth I’d always told my marks, that I was a low paid pilot trying to make a little extra with a little gambling on the side. From that point on the details varied with the mark. This time I was working for a salvage ship, and business had been bad recently. When it was bad, I supplemented my income however I could, I told him. I left just exactly how I did that to Blake’s imagination and offered him a hint of a smile as he shifted in his seat to make his enthusiasm for helping a girl out a little more comfortable in his trousers. He was feeling generous from the deal he’d just made, he told me.
“I fucking bet he is,” Manning growled into my implant.
Blake lost magnanimously and graciously the next three hands while I proceeded to pump him for details about this great deal he’d made, and the asshole didn’t even try to hide the fact that he’d cheated Manning out of paying him. I knew that about Polyphemians as well. They were always pleased to get something for nothing, and their views on ownership were more about possession than the exchange of legal tender. With a few cleavage swelling gasps and sighs and an enthusiastic stroke of the tree trunk thigh now pressed against mine, I made my admiration for what he’d pulled off clear. Then I leaned in close and told him that the salvage ship I was on had just discovered the mother load of triaxium ore in a wrecked Aranian stingray class freighter. It had been lost ten years ago out near the Katis quasar, not far from here. But my crew had to mark it and leave it because they didn’t have the right equipment, and being an Authority sanctioned ship, they didn’t have mol-tran. So if he were willing to play for my share, I was willing to bet something worthy of such a Polyphemian deal. You could almost see the credit calculations whizzing through his mind. The obvious was that the New Hibernian whiskey was small change compared to a triax treasure trove.
By that time, I was making sure he got generous views down Fury’s exquisitely designed bodice and I was showing the first signs of having just a bit too much to drink. But while my inebriation was faked, his was not. A helpful piece of information Manning had given me was that Blake couldn’t hold his alcohol, but he loved Krinelian brandy, nonetheless. A little dealing under the table by Manning had Stella making sure the alcohol content in Blake’s brandy went up the closer I got to what I wanted. And celebrating his steal of a deal, as he was, fully expecting to take me back to his room for further celebrations, he kept the drinks coming. Now that there was a chance to sweeten the deal beyond his wildest dreams, he had even more reason to celebrate. I was very careful to lose the next two games spectacularly, gambling away all of my share of the triaxium salvage.